The pop-up debate in Lanier Heights pits "property rights" against "neighborhood character" 

Greater Greater Washington, November 20, 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 7 P.M.
Festival Center, 1640 Columbia Road NW

ANC-1C commissioners will hear public comments, prior to their scheduled December 3 vote, on a proposal to downzone Lanier Heights from an R-5-B zone to R-4 zoning. This zoning change will reduce permitted building heights from the current 50 foot maximum to a new 40 foot maximum for
 both new construction and remodeling of existing homes. New restrictions intended to stop conversions of row houses into small apartment or condo buildings are part of this proposal. 

All interested parties are encouraged to attend.

Here's the link to our SPECIAL REPORT on the problems of downzoning.

Here’s How Home Prices Have Changed in D.C.’s Neighborhoods
(Washington City Paper, 11-11-2014)

No Preservations: 
Money Perverts the Historic Landmarking Process
(Washington City Paper, 11-06-2014 edition)

Young Commissioners Elected to Dupont ANC 
(Dupont Current, 11-05-2014 edition)

You can see the results city wide and by each of the eight wards. 
ANC winning candidates are listed under their respective wards.

Final results from our 2014 ANC Candidate Poll on the question of downzoning residential neighborhoods in D.C. will be posted soon.


October 21, 2014: Mayoral candidates Carol Schwartz and David Catania took questions from the public in a meeting sponsored by the Kalorama Citizens Association. After a brief statement by each candidate, the microphone was passed to audience members. 

Although candidates were allotted only a few minutes for their replies to each question, time limits were not strictly enforced.

Audience members asked questions about education, economic development, job creation, residential zoning and the city's future. But the first question dealt with the issue of homelessness. So did the final question. (Continue reading)

(Greater Greater Washington)

From the above-linked interview at Greater Greater Washington:

David Catania: The city doesn't have a housing plan, period.

David CataniaWe're expecting 170,000 additional residents over the next 25 years. We have to find a way to efficiently and safely and economically transport individuals around the city.

David Catania: . . . in the old city, I don't favor any change to the height requirement. In the rest of the city, I think these issues should be decided by our local legislature and local mayor with input from the population . . . I personally am not keen on the notion of raising the height limit in our city. I believe there's plenty of infill capacity in our city to meet needs, but you can never say never. 

The whole GGW interview is well worth reading.

Here's a link to a Washington Post article about meet-and-greet events held by candidates Muriel Bowser and David Catania. 

From the above-linked Washington Post article:

Which city agency would Bowser blow up if elected? Which type of homes does she think are an eyesore? Bowser went further . . . than in any public debate: The Democratic nominee thinks pop-ups are plain “ugly,” she said Sunday night [Oct. 19, 2014]. And the agency responsible for issuing building permits is “in a state of emergency,” she said, because of its failure to be responsive to the building industry.


Washington is in the middle of its biggest housing crisis and population boom since World War II

As developers try to meet the high demand for new housing, some long time residents really hate the changes they see coming. They are pushing the city for "zoning reform," also known as "downzoning."

To preserve their current lifestyles, the downer group wants to substitute some imaginary property rights they believed they had for the actual rights that home owners have held for generations.

Angry NIMBYs posted this when their neighbor's house "popped-up" in 2013. 


The DOWNERS put up yard signs in 2014 and began lobbying to downzone the neighborhood. DOWNZONING FEVER NOW SPREADING ACROSS THE CITY.

Our group, NEIGHBORS AGAINST DOWNZONING, has been polling all candidates for Mayor, Council and ANC for their opinions on downzoning. We'll accept responses through Election day. Initial results are posted on our website.

We want to keep a diverse and inclusive neighborhood that welcomes new residents and allows home owners to keep their zoning rights. We want a future that includes the potential for growth and change. 

We oppose downzoning as elitist, exclusionary, economically unsound and utterly undemocratic.

And on top of all that: Downzoning will do VIRTUALLY NOTHING to "Save The Neighborhood" the way the downers would like. Downzoning can't stop pop-ups. Downzoning can't prevent row house development. 

At the very most, downzoning might achieve some temporary slow down in neighborhood construction. Maybe. Possibly. But not guaranteed

This much is certain: as long as the city's housing crisis and population boom continue, rents will go up, property values will rise, and large, 100-year-old houses will be remodeled into smaller dwellings.

(In My Backyard - DC)

Presentation of Downzoning Proposal Scheduled 
Oct. 15, 2014, at Kalorama Park Rec Center, 1875 Columbia Road NW, 7 PM 


ANC1C has received the two proposals linked below concerning zoning in Lanier Heights. One of the proposals requests a change in zoning for the rowhouse portions of Lanier Heights from R-5-B to R-4. The other proposal requests no change in zoning in Lanier Heights. We have asked a representative of each proposal to attend the October 15th meeting of our Planning, Zoning, and Transportation Committee to give a brief presentation (not more than 5 minutes) of their respective proposals. The meeting will be held at 7 pm at the Kalorama Park Recreation Center, 1875 Columbia Road NW. We will not hold a general public discussion on the proposals at this Committee meeting. But we expect to establish a process shortly for receiving public comments and scheduling a vote on this matter, and we will post that information here and on the Adams Morgan Listserv as soon as it becomes available.

Our Very Modest Proposal will be presented, too.
Oct. 15, 2014, at Kalorama Park Rec Center, 1875 Columbia Road NW, 7 PM 

Downzoning Plan Debated in Lanier Heights


More than 60 ANC candidates have responded to the poll so far, a response rate of more than 15% of announced candidates. Some of the candidates accepted our invitation to make additional comments. You can read those comments here.

ANC candidates who did not list an email address with the Board of Elections, including any write-in candidates, who wish to participate in the survey may request a polling form by emailing us at:

D.C. Council Considers Bill to Make ANC Operations More Transparent (Dupont Current, Oct-1-2014)


From an ANC-1C email dated Sept. 18, 2014: Excerpt from a summary of the minutes of the meeting, dealing with Lanier Heights rezoning:

Planning, Zoning, and Transportation Committee 
Wednesday, September 17, 7:00 PM – Matters Addressed 

Proposed Zoning Change in Lanier Heights. Joel Lawson, from the District’s Office of Planning, answered questions about the process and timeline for neighbors interested in seeking a change in zoning in Lanier Heights. The Committee decided to invite the submission of proposals from neighbors seeking a change in zoning, and will set aside time at its October Committee meeting to consider those proposals. To be considered, proposals should be emailed to Commissioner Rock ( no later than 5 pm on October 8, 2014, with a cc to Commissioner Simpson (, and should contain the following information: (i) a description of the zoning changes sought, (ii) the issues that the applicant seeks to address through any zoning change, (iii) the geographic area that the changes would apply to, (iv) a description of public outreach the applicant has already undertaken, and (v) the signatures of all neighbors supporting the proposal. 


From ANC1C:

Planning, Zoning, and Transportation Committee 
Wednesday, September 17, 7:00 PM 
Kalorama Recreation Center, 1875 Columbia Road NW 

Proposed Zoning Change in Lanier Heights. The Committee expects to receive a presentation from neighbors concerning a proposed zoning change in Lanier Heights, and may receive guidance from the Office of Planning concerning the processes involved with such a proposed zoning change. 

Please attend the meeting SEPTEMBER 17 at 7:00 PM. 
Kalorama Recreation Center, 1875 Columbia Road NW

Ask the hard questions the downzoners don't want to answer. 

If you can't attend the meeting, call or email the ANC rep for your SMD or contact ANC1C Chairperson William Simpson

Here's a report on the meeting from our observer:

Sept 17, 2014: The room at the Kalorama Rec Center was packed and a good 20 degrees warmer than outside. 

Hoping to skip the meeting's preliminaries, this observer arrived just before 8 PM, one hour after the scheduled start time. But apparently the Lanier Heights re-zoning proposal had been moved to the top of the agenda to accommodate the majority of attendees. 

The three members of the Planning, Zoning & Transportation subcommittee were barely audible at the back of the room. 

Commissioner Rock was speaking about the issue of property rights in Lanier Heights when this observer arrived.

Commissoner Dehbozorgi spoke next, expressing discomfort at the idea of the PZT subcommittee holding a vote on people's property rights. She suggested that the entire ANC needed to address the issue of development in Lanier Heights, not just the PZT subcommittee. She said that any neighborhood proposals concerning rezoning or a special zoning overlay should (1) not be submitted anonymously and (2) should have signatures of as many supporters as the proposal's sponsor could muster.

ANC Chairman Simpson Commissioner Reynolds picked up on Commissoner Dehbozorgi's concern, observing that past surveys of neighborhood opinion always resulted in people complaining that they had not been made aware of the issues under discussion. Chairman Simpson 
Commissioner Reynolds stated his desire to have input from as many neighbors as possible, not just 10% or 20% but at least 50% and preferably more. 

Chairman Simpson 
Commissioner Reynolds expressed his belief that any action from the ANC should await the final zoning rewrite, since the rewrite could potentially render any ANC action moot. Once the zoning commission has finished the rewrite, he said, then the ANC could hold a referendum of neighbors. He described such a referendum as being held on a predesignated date, with a ballot box, paper ballots, and proper voter identification.

At this point a member of the audience spoke, suggesting that if there was to be a vote on property rights, the ANC needed to poll every home owner, by mail, using ANC funds if needed, and give them at least 30 days to respond.

Chairman Simpson 
Commissioner Reynolds seemed amenable to this suggestion but wondered how to determine who should get to cast a vote. He described the Lanier Heights neighborhood's boundaries in general terms but did not say if he thought votes should only come from home owners or if owners of condos and co-ops should be included. There was no mention if Lanier Heights renters should have a vote in the future of their neighborhood.

Another spectator spoke, expressing frustration that construction was proceeding at 1726 Lanier Place, where a single family home on a large corner lot is being converted to eight condos. He wondered how such a thing was possible and thought the city needed to step in and stop the project. 

A representative from the Office of Planning replied that he was unfamiliar with that specific address but he presumed it was zoned R-5-B, which meant the project was most likely proceeding according to existing zoning laws. 

There were a few other comments & questions. Then Commissioner Rock stated that they needed to get on with the other items on the evening's agenda and people started filing out of the Rec Center. 

Please report any significant errors or omissions from this summary to 

A commenter who read this report on the Prince-of-Petworth blog states that Chairman Simpson was not at this meeting. Comments attributed to Chairman Simpson in our observer's report should be attributed instead to Commissioner Reynolds. We apologize for the error.  

IN-TOWNER Featured Story (Sept 2014 Edition)

Growing Push to Increase Development in Lanier Heights Causes Neighborhood Controversy Quick Link

Growing Push to Increase Development
In Lanier Heights Roils Neighborhood FULL PDF

Different headlines but the same story. Full PDF link includes pictures.


Every statement ever issued by the downzoners complains about the possibility of reduced street parking if more people move in to the neighborhood. 

This is despite the fact that the Adams Morgan - Lanier Heights neighborhood has a very high walkability score and easy access to multiple bus lines, metrorail, taxis and car-sharing services, all of which make living here very attractive to people who do NOT own cars.

This article ("Zoning Commissioners Balk At Rewrite Revision" from the July 16, 2014 edition of The Dupont Current) seems to confirm that parking worries are a major factor in downzoner thinking.  

And it reminds us of this blog post about the negative effects of requiring 20th century parking minimums in a growing 21st century city.

Just one of the ironies of the downzoner parking argument is that many of the downzoners live in row houses that have off-street parking spaces, or even one-or-two car garages. 

It seems most likely that the future of Lanier Heights (and the city as a whole) does NOT include car ownership for every resident. It is past time the city stopped subsidizing the automobile industry by requiring parking minimums that are not only unnecessary, not only unwanted by many of our newer residents, but actually counter-productive to the goal of a cleaner, greener future.

IMMEDIATE UPDATE: Just a few hours after posting the above, the Sept. 10, 2014 edition of The Dupont Current arrived with this story front paged: "Study Eyes Future Parking Reforms." There is no online link yet, but the second paragraph quotes a D.C. Department of Transportation associate director as follows:

"The key themes [in surveyed residents] were that people didn't want other people to be able to park near their houses --- but they want to be able to park everywhere else."

We will provide a link when available, but in the meantime, we urge our readers to find a copy of The Dupont Current and read the whole article.

UPDATE: And here is the LINK.

Housing Complex, Washington City Paper (9/12/2014)

The Cost of Downzoning
50 MILLION DOLLARS in Lanier Heights


ANC 1A/1B Town Hall Scheduled for August 4th. They will discuss proposals to downzone R-4 residential zones to a maximum height of 35 feet and maximum of two dwelling units.

Home owners in R-4 zones throughout the city should be worried about downzoning and the damage it will do to their property rights, finances and freedom.


Local ANC Chairperson Mr. William Simpson was interviewed about the downzoning controversy in Lanier Heights in a recent CityPaper article:

. . . Advisory Neighborhood Commission Chair Billy Simpson is reluctant to weigh in publicly. “Do I have to go on the record?” he asks, before doing so. He’s heard from several dozen neighbors who support the zoning change, versus only two people who are opposed . . .

"Several" is one of those uncertain adjectives. We believe there are, at most, three dozen strong supporters of downzoning in Lanier Heights.

NEIGHBORS AGAINST DOWNZONING currently has over two dozen petition supporters and we are gaining more every week. 

Make sure Mr. Simpson hears from you. Please send him a short email stating your opposition to downzoning. Something like this:

Dear Mr. Simpson:
     Thank you for your service as ANC Chairperson. 
     I am writing to express my opposition to downzoning Lanier Heights.

Send your email to Mr. Simpson at

Please CC: so we can help Mr. Simpson keep an accurate count of emails against downzoning.


Outreach: Media and Community

We have focused our past efforts on posters and door-to-door leafletting in Lanier Heights. Many of our neighbors have signed the petition and even put up yard signs. Sadly, our yard signs have been stolen, our posters have been ripped down, and our newsletters confiscated.

We will continue to reach out to our neighbors in Lanier Heights, but it is time to take this debate citywide.
So we are reaching out to blogs and newspapers to spread the message.

• Here's a July 23 posting on Washington CityPaper's Housing Complex blog:
(This article also ran in the paper's print edition).
Note: the picture of the Ontario Road pop-up is very misleading, as pointed out by NICK in comment #10.
We will have a page up soon discussing the CityPaper article in more detail.

• Here's a posting from July 11 (on Prince of Petworth).
Battle for future development/renovations in Lanier Heights Continues
Note: The yard signs pictured in the linked article were stolen the same day.

For more links, go to our NEWSPAPER & BLOGS page.


We actually have a lot of empathy for the downzoners. 

We can imagine what it must be like to live in a nice neighborhood for many years and suddenly find that the neighborhood is changing, the skyline is being altered, there are new people and more people living next door. It must seem to downzoners that the "rules of the game" have abruptly changed. 

We can imagine all this so easily because it is what the downzoners are trying to do to Lanier Heights right now: abruptly change the rules of the game, never mind whose property rights might be hurt in the process.

The difference is that the "downers" want to give away some valuable home owner rights in order to "save the neighborhood." We who oppose them think our neighborhood is doing just fine, thank you very much, and doesn't need their brand of saving. 

The downers are willing to give away their property rights -- AND OURS -- because they don't think it will hurt property values enough to make a big difference. We are unwilling to let them give away OUR property rights because we KNOW it will hurt our property values and our personal finances.  


1696 Lanier Place NW 
(2nd from left, in case you were wondering).

Do you know about the other "ugly pop-ups" destroying Lanier Heights?

Don't Freeze the Future of Lanier Heights

MOST ROW HOUSES in Lanier Heights were built around 100 years ago with a 40 foot front height and a sloped roof dropping off to a 30 foot height in the rear. This created a small attic space at the top front of the house which quickly sloped down to no more than a crawlspace at the back. 

DOWNZONING LANIER HEIGHTS will limit homeowner options for additions to row houses. While current zoning allows for buildings up to 50 feet in height, the "downers" want the city to pass laws limiting row houses to 40 feet in height. 

UPDATE: If Lanier Heights is downzoned to R-4 status, home owners could suffer further losses if R-4 rules are then revised downward. There are already some who want to limit building height to 35 feet in R-4 zones.

THE DIFFERENCE between the current zoning and new zoning ("downzoning") proposed by the "downers"  will slash a homeowner's potential for additions.


DOWNZONING will impact homeowner rights beyond additions to their own living space. 

Lanier Heights residential lots are currently zoned multi-family. That means homeowners have the right to remodel and make additions to create rental units. Many row house owners already have used the multi-family zoning rules to add separate basement apartments.

• Afraid that neighbors will make additions to their homes.
• Afraid that neighbors will sell their homes to developers. 

• Opponents of new housing often criticize "greedy developers." 
• But previous developers built the Lanier Heights row houses in the first place.

TODAY'S DEVELOPERS completely remodel and upgrade the interiors of these 100+ year old row houses to create three or four apartments or condos that provide smaller, modern homes for a new generation of residents. We note that only rarely is a row house converted into five or more new homes, and only when a row house sits on an unusually large plot of land. Why? Because zoning rules limit the amount of floor space allowed based on the square footage of the lot.

TODAY'S DEVELOPERS pay top dollar to buy from homeowners. They invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to completely remodel and upgrade the interiors of these aging houses. They employ architects, contractors, and construction workers. Then they sell or rent to new residents. They earn a reasonable profit on their investment of time, money and labor. 

They provide a service to the homeowner who wants to sell, provide jobs for those in the building trades, and provide new housing for new residents. Those new residents support local businesses and pay taxes to the District of Columbia. 

THIS IS A "WIN-WIN" SITUATION FOR VIRTUALLY EVERYBODY. The only potential "losers" are those who feel that adding one more floor to a row house will "destroy the skyline" or deprive them of "light and air." 

We believe that even these self-identified "losers" will benefit from a growing and invigorated Lanier Heights neighborhood.


• Downzoning Lanier Heights will take existing rights away from all home owners and give the city significant new control over our biggest financial investment : our homes. 

• YOUR RIGHT to remodel or make changes to your home will be severely reduced if our neighborhood is downzoned. 

• YOUR RIGHT to add apartments or condos will be lost.

• Loss of YOUR RIGHTS could cost you $100,000 – $200,000 – $300,000 – OR MORE – if you EVER try to sell your home.
(Click on $200,000 link above and read the "complaint" that a home owner was paid $225,000 more than asking price). 

• The HOMEOWNER RIGHTS you have now will be drastically reduced : FOREVER.

After months of intensive lobbying, the "downer" group has managed only a couple dozen yard signs posted in Lanier Heights. 

Since there are almost 200 row houses in the neighborhood, it is obvious that the "downers" do not really represent the people who live here.

But the owners of row houses are not the only ones who matter. 

Even if you don't own a home or a condo, even if you live outside the confines of Lanier Heights, your opinion counts, too.

The city-wide zoning rewrite process is an opportunity for all District residents to have a voice in the direction our city will take. The last zoning rewrite took place over 50 years ago, so the new regulations, good or bad, are likely to be with us for many decades.


We have several different newsletters, stickers, posters and yard signs available upon request.

Please follow these guidelines:

1. Do not put up signs on private property without permission from the owner.

2. Ask permission before you post a sign in a business. Even if the business has a bulletin board that seems to be open for public use, get permission first.

3. Don't post signs in apartment buildings or condominiums without permission.

4. Do not use any kind of tape, glue, staple or nail that would damage private or public property. 

5. Do not post signs on trees. 

6. Taping signs to lamp posts is an accepted method of sharing your message with the public, even in the age of the internet.

7. DO NOT VANDALIZE ANTI-POP UP SIGNS. The "downers" have a right to express their opinions, just as the rest of us have the right to disagree with them.


Call or email your ANC repscity council members, the office of planning, the zoning board and the mayor's office



Produced by NEIGHBORS AGAINST DOWNZONING, an all volunteer group of friends, neighbors and home owners in Washington, D.C.  Established 2014. Administrative Facilitator: Ronald Baker.